The effect of agrochemicals on indicator bacteria densities in outdoor mesocosms


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Water bodies, which are monitored for microbial water quality by quantification of faecal indicator organisms (IOs), can contain various zoonotic pathogens contributed by livestock waste and other sources. Sediments can serve as reservoirs of IOs and other enteric microorganisms, including pathogens. Agrochemicals may influence the survival of these microorganisms in water bodies impacted by livestock waste by enhancing or reducing their survival. Complex, 1100 l, freshwater mesocosms containing leaf litter, zooplankton, periphyton, phytoplankton, and invertebrate and vertebrate animals were used to investigate the response of Escherichia coli and enterococci to agrochemicals. Replicate tanks were treated with atrazine, malathion, chlorothalonil and inorganic fertilizer, either alone at 1× or 2× their expected environmental concentrations (EECs) or in pair-wise combinations at their EECs. IOs inoculated in sediment (∼104 cfu per 100 ml) were enumerated over 28 days. IOs generally declined over time, but manova revealed that addition of fertilizer and atrazine resulted in significantly greater IO densities. Malathion, chlorothalonil and agrochemical concentration (1× vs 2×) did not significantly affect IO densities and no significant interactions between agrochemicals were noted. The augmentation of IO densities in sediments by fertilizer and atrazine may impact their reliability as accurate predictors of water quality and human health risk, and indicates the need for a better understanding of the fate of IOs and enteric pathogens in sediments exposed to agrochemicals.